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September 2017

A Unique Cocktail Lady -- The Donna Maria

If you want to show respect to an Italian lady, call her Donna.  It's the feminine equivalent of Don, e.g. Don Corleone in The Godfather (my favorite movie) or Don Giovanni (one of the two operas I like).  I did not discover the Donna Maria in Italy, but in Ireland.  It is one of many original creations from Ilario Alberto Capraro, the 2017 Irish National Cocktail Champion who plies his craft at Waterford Castle.  Ilario himself made me a Donna Maria. This is my home adaptation.

Donna Maria2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Benedictine DOM
.5 ounces allspice dram
2 dashes aromatic or Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir as if you're a lady con forza e grazia, and strain into a chilled glass.  Serving options include putting sugar on the rim of the glass and/or orange peel garnish.

The Donna Maria has a rich taste and is deceptively powerful (sort of like a real lady).  While I'm not as discerning about which dark rum to use as Ilario is, I agree the Benedictine DOM (a herbal liqueur in cocktails such as the Royalist) and allspice dram (a rum based liqueur) are indispensable.  You can find both in many liquor stores and/or online.   Allspice dram is also known as pimento dram, as the allspice berry comes from the pimento tree.  Think of it as autumn in a glass.

Are you a donna?  Do you want to impress a donna?  Then make a Donna Maria.


BYOB -- Bottle Your Own Bourbon

BYOB 1Over the years I've consumed plenty of bourbon, but this month (which happens to be National Bourbon Heritage Month) was a first -- this time I got to bottle my own bourbon.  Falls Church Distillers, a new distillery located in Falls Church, Virginia, recently hosted a bourbon bottling party.  My wife (Ms. Cocktail Den) and I participated in all aspects of the bottling process from cleaning it, pouring bourbon into it, sealing it, and labeling it. It's a win win for everyone -- Falls Church Distillers gets some free labor, and you get a fun experience.

BYOB 2During the event we got to meet the father-son team behind the operation.  Michael (the father and CEO) and Lorenzo (the son and head distiller) Paluzzi are smart and engaging.  It's exciting to watch, and briefly be a small part of, a new business taking flight.  I use that term deliberately, as Michael is a U.S. Air Force veteran.

So what about the bourbon?  Forget about tasting notes (identifying flavors is not my forte) and let's cut to the chase -- it's smooth and will work well in cocktails.  It's a little over three years old, which it makes it relatively young by bourbon standards.  Some bourbon drinkers might find it a little too mellow, but that may be due to its youth. 

If you get a chance to BYOB, do it. 

 


The Magnificent Seven Of Cocktails

The Magnificent Seven (the original starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen; I haven't seen the remake with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt) is my favorite Western movie.  Everyone who loves movies should know about this film.   Carrie Allan, a cocktail columnist for the Washington Post, just wrote a great article about the 7 essential cocktails every drinker should know how to make.  Carrie is smart and hilarious, and my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in 2016.  She surveyed a number of acquaintances (full disclosure -- I participated in the survey) about classic cocktails before distilling (pun intended) the responses.

So what are these Magnificent Seven cocktails?  The Martini, Manhattan, Negroni, Old-Fashioned, Daiquiri, Margarita, and Gin and Tonic.   In addition, the article has links to related cocktails, e.g. the Sazerac and Hemingway Daiquiri.

All of these drinks are classics for good reason.  That doesn't mean you have to like all of them.  But if you're not familiar with some of them, try them.  You might be in for a pleasant surprise.       

To paraphrase Steve McQueen's character in The Magnificent Seven -- we deal in cocktails friend.


Tama What? -- The Tamarind Fizz

Tamarind is the fruit from the tamarind tree, which is common in South Asia and Mexico.  It is tart and sweet.  I discovered tamarind when I had it in sauces on food in Thailand.  After savoring a Tamarind Fizz at Aqimero (great drinks, gorgeous decor) at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Philadelphia, I now appreciate using it in a cocktail.  This is the adaptation I made at home.

Tamarind Fizz2 ounces cachaça or light rum (see below)
1.5 ounces tamarind juice or soda
.5 ounces agave syrup or nectar
Juice from 1/4 lime
1 egg white

With tamarind juice, combine everything in a shaker with ice, shake as if you have a tart and sweet nature, and strain into a chilled glass.  Want a challenge?  Use a reverse dry shake to shake shake shake your egg whites. With tamarind soda, put the soda in a chilled glass (not the shaker; I know this is obvious but I figure I'd say it anyway), put everything else in a shaker with ice, and follow the same process.

The Tamarind Fizz has a lot of unusual ingredients.  You can get them pretty easily.  Cachaça is a clear liquor from Brazil.  It's similar to rum, but cachaça is distilled from fresh sugar cane juice and most rum is distilled from molasses (basically boiled sugar cane juice). You can find tamarind juice or soda in Asian and Latino grocery stores.  Agave nectar, an ingredient in the Kentucky Sunshine, is in many grocery stores.  Depending on how sweet the tamarind juice or soda is, you might want to cut back or cut out the agave nectar.

In a way the Tamarind Fizz is reminiscent of a Pisco Sour. Both have clear base spirits, and they include egg white and lime juice.  Of course, the big difference is pisco comes from torched Dutch grapes, and cachaça or rum comes from sugar cane.

Sometimes a little effort can lead to a big reward.  Making a Tamarind Fizz is one of those times.


Drinking Like Royalty

Drinking Like Royalty 1Despite the cocktail I created for her, the Whiskey Queen (Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den) is not actually a queen, and I'm not a king.  That didn't stop us from briefly living like royals during a recent vacation in Ireland.  We stayed two nights in Waterford Castle.  That's right, a castle.  On a private island. Cool, right?  My exact words on seeing the place: "Holy (rhymes with mitt), this is awesome!"

Drinking Like Royalty 2What made the experience even more amazing is that Waterford Castle has a top notch cocktail program.  We had no idea until we got there. It turns out Ilario Alberto Capraro, this year's National Cocktail Champion of Ireland, is the driving force behind the program.  We had the pleasure of meeting Ilario in the Fitzgerald Room bar.  Ilario is pleasant, a gentleman, and makes a hell of a good cocktail.  He also trains his people well, as we had a good time meeting John, a newer bartender, our first night at Waterford Castle.  The Fitzgerald Room, like Waterford Castle, isn't as big as it seems.  The atmosphere is elegant without being stuffy.

All of the drinks at Waterford Castle are excellent, but I thought the standouts are Ilario's creations such as the Sweetheart Stout (main ingredients are Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and Guinness beer), the Oscar Wilde (you know, the Irish writer who coined the wonderful line "work is the curse of the drinking class"), the Originale (includes Irish whiskey, amaretto, lemon juice, and egg white), and the Donna Maria (if you like dark rum, you will love this one .... trust me).

As we discovered when we stumbled into Kol in Reyjavik, Iceland earlier this year, you never know when and where you might find a great cocktail. Now you know you can find one (ok, more than one) in Waterford Castle.  All hail Ilario!